Open Doors 2010 Overview, in Brief
How many events did you get to?I replied at length about my experience, but it is still in brief as compared with the coverage, with lots of fotos, of particular events that I will get to over the time before the last Art Walk of this year on Saturday, October 23rd, alternating with other topics. Here's what I wrote back (slitely edited and profusely illustrated now, tho not in the original email).
How were the crowds?
I went to 2 outside of Thursday's "Design" at 239 Collective.
Wasn’t as full as I would have thought. Is that your feeling too?
Furniture area of "Newark Design" show at the 239 Collective.
I went to 17 events at 14 venues, PLUS a Halsey Street block party. Most did indeed seem to me to underperform, some drastically. The 239 Collective show went well, and the opening reception and closing party at 33 Washington were well attended.
My trolley for the Murals Tour had only 3 passengers. Sinful.
NJIT was almost empty, which is very unusual.
The Catfish Friday show had a fair turnout.
Painting by, I think, Gladys Grauer, in Catfish Friday show.
But the elevator went out in that building (972 Broad St) due to a small mechanical fire, so the 9th-floor assemblage by Josh Knoblick was poorly attended.
(Fuzzy) detail, Lori Merhige painting in Solo(s) Project House.
The ground-floor Solo Project was well attended, but that's a small space.
Hallway, Solo(s) Project House.
The NJPAC block party was reasonably well attended, despite rain that threatened but did not fall. NJPAC held this free outdoor event after a paid performance of Beethoven's Ninth in Prudential Hall, so if they made an announcement indoors of the outdoor event to follow, they had a built-in audience, without even relying on bringing in outsiders (no pun intended).
Aljira was almost empty on Friday (the show there has been in place for a long time, tho, so many of the Newark art crowd would have seen it already), but Index/Kedar was well attended — they've got to ban smoking!
The Newark Museum got 175 college kids into its College Open House, I was told by Alison (McCartney) Ognibene of NuMu. I told her it should have been a minimum of 500, esp. inasmuch as there are now BIG dormitories for Rutgers and UMDNJ, plus University Centre for students from all of the area's colleges.
Kedar Studio during joint show with Index, nextdoor.
The Beaver St block party associated with Submerged Art Gallery was not crowded, but was very pleasant, tho too many people were talking thru, and standing in front of the screen when, a Spike Jonze film was shown. We had to shout "Get out of the way!"
Family of female drummers accompany Stony River Boys at Submerged Art Gallery Block Party.
The main Submerged show had spare attendance at times, but a fair number of visitors at other times. That (210 Market St) is also a small space.
The Submerged Loft (up 61 steps! — with no handrail for the top 15 or so steps) was sparely attended, but not so badly when you consider the stairs.
Corner of the Submerged Loft show.
(I also, the evening before, climbed up and down 180 steps to the roof of 972, one floor above the Knoblick piece, when Anker West said the roof was open and had a good view — so I was up and down a total of more than 360 steps that nite, since there are also six or so steps up from the lobby of 972 to the first-floor show.)
I got into Arts High for the first time, Sunday, and met an assistant principal I might interview in doing a feature on that institution for the future.
What else? I missed the Arts Parade — I was very late, and the route had changed from last year, so I didn't know where to intercept it. I stopped at the Newark Museum, renewed my membership, and made a quick circuit of the Gustav Stickley show — wonderful things, but I wouldn't want a whole house with that furniture. I did NOT climb more stairs to the Japanese artist's show in Submerged Art's 3d space. It had a live chicken walking around, and the artist pretend-sleeping — ? I was shown a picture, and Lynn Presley of Catfish Friday said, after seeing that performance piece herself, that it wasn't worth the steps (to her). I am not AT ALL big on performance art. Picture my hand held flat, speeding backwards over my head.
View from Loft.
I went to Sumei, but they were charging $10 ("donation"; I asked if that was required, and when I was told yes, I told them "Never mind, then", and walked away. That should NOT be permitted during Open Doors). A (black) guy I had seen at other events and whom I had told about the $10 (as he and his female friend, who take the same bus I do to get home, when I'm not driving, were approaching Sumei as I was leaving in disgust), ran after me when they found, at a different entrance, that Sumei would permit a lesser "donation" (extortion), but I had rounded a corner and he didn't see me. He ran as far as Penn Sta, a LONG block from Hamilton St. I later thanked him when I saw him at 33 on Sunday, where his lady friend told me of his efforts.
Note duct-tape editing of banner.
This is an exceptional example of what Jacques Lacombe remarked on during set changes during the NJPAC party. He said he always thought Montreal, where he is from (I had thought he was from France), was friendly, but he has found Newark, to which he has now moved, to be even more friendly. You know the thing, people coming toward you (more likely black people than white), nodding, and saying "How ya doin'?" It's times like that, that I think maybe the black-nationalist academic Leonard Jeffries (a professor at my "alma mater", City College of New York, not Lionel Jeffries, a British actor, as I once mistakenly wrote here) who speaks of blacks being "sun people" and whites being "ice people", isn't completely crazy after all. Mediterranean Europeans are also "sun people", and most of my close friends are Italian, tho the Irish side of my family is also warmer than I am (I tend to the Dutch and German sides of my heritage, cool rather than warm — unless, of course, we're marching in formation; don't you just love stereotypes?).
Ceramic works large and small at Gifts East West (57 Halsey Street). Some pieces are customary but well-crafted ceramics; others, like the large piece in this picture, are complicated artworks that tell a story. This is a wonderful shop, showing wonderful art by the Wattses, a married artist couple, the husband from England, the wife from Thailand. They settled in Newark. See how smart they are?
That's the end of my email. During the course of my attendance at this year's Open Doors artswhirl, I took about 473 fotos and 2 videos over the 4 days, and it took me quite some time to run the fotos thru my graffics program (about
I stopped into Gifts East West and took a couple of pix of things I hadn't shown or that didn't turn out right, and also saw the Wattses at the closing party at 33 on Sunday. I had been by 33 around 4:15 Sunday, after the Museum, and very few people were there then; but after 6pm, when the artists gathered, there was a good turnout — but not for a space that size. Linwood O. thanked "Yolan"(?) for suggesting that OD be moved up to September; I had made the same suggestion in my blog on November 2, 2009, but will assume she came up with her suggestion independently. I heard somewhere that Alexander Graham Bell put in his patent application for the telefone only 6 hours before someone else put in an application for a competing device. I'll have to check to see if that actually happened. Of course, if "Yolan" saw my suggestion and passed it along as her own, I shall have to DESTROY her. (Not really, FBI.)
I'm puzzled that we can't get ENORMOUS crowds to Open Doors — even in gorgeous weather. We've got to find a way to reach the suburbs — I was talking to 2 elderly black women from Montclair who were sitting in the chairs reserved for us old folks at the NJPAC outdoor concert, and they hadn't heard a WORD about a Newark arts weekend! How is that possible? A few people came over from the Brooklyn art crowd, but very few, and few to none from Manhattan. An arts entity from Hoboken had a room at the 33 show, but I doubt much of anybody else from Hoboken, or J.C., attended.
I am frankly at a loss to know how to get the word out. I no longer have cable TV (only cable modem), so don't know if OD was on the Cablevision public-service events calendar, which few people see, but some do. Or in places like Baristanet.com, the NYTimes's Maplewood/South Orange local blogs; Jersey Journal, Bergen Record, Asbury Park Press, Trenton Times; NYTimes, Post, Daily News, Observer, Wall St Journal; Philadelphia Inquirer, New Hope Gazette; TV and radio stations throughout the area we might draw from, and on and on. Is the NAC not doing the job it should be doing in getting the word out? Or does the NAC send out press releases, short-form and long-, in hardcopy and via email, but media outside Newark proper just ignore OD? everything in Nwk? I really just don't get it.
The Diamond Pusher by Bob Bonanno in this year's 33 Washington Street Show.
What we have most got to do is to get GROUPS of friends, families, organizations whose members might not individually venture into Newark, to get together and make a day of it. We need to appeal to the schools (public and private, K-12 and vocational/college level, here and in surrounding communities — FIELD TRIP!), women's clubs, men's clubs, boys & girls clubs (I haven't capitalized that because I don't know which comes first in the formal name of that institution, even tho my sister, who is in NJ from Long Beach, CA this week, works for them), senior centers, Rotary, Lions, Elks — etc. — to put together bus packages with boxed lunch, that kind of thing. And we've got to get more music in the mix, in Washington Park opposite the Museum and 33 show especially. (I don't much care for music, but most people do.) We should also line the block parties and park concert areas with paintings on temporary fences (sturdy plastic netting if not chainlink fencing).
Band at Halsey Street Block Party (with female drummer).
What's being done so far is right, as far as it goes. But we're in the "if a tree falls in the forest but nobody hears, does it make a sound?" situation. And speaking of "Situation", the quickest way to get attention for public events is to attract celebrities, and I don't mean Cory Booker alone (he spoke briefly at the NJPAC block party), or Bradford Hayes and his quartet. Queen Latifah lives in NJ somewhere. Why wasn't she out and about in OD, with her prominent friends? Jersey Shore celebs? Jerseylicious celebs? Housewives of NJ? Broadway Empire? Even the Sopranos cast, while they are still famous?
I want the joint to be jumping, with art and music on the streets and in the parks, not just in the galleries. I want tens of thousands of people milling about from one venue to another, stopping at the concerts and trying international foods from vendors along the way (from a soul-food sampler for us white folk who have HEARD of "chitterlings" but never tasted them, to Filipino bean-sprout fritters (one of my favorite street foods), to gyros and shishkabobs and veggibobs, to samosas and that crisp peanut bread of Indian cooking, to chicken tikka and vindaloo and goat curry, and to macro vegetarian/vegan, to Puerto Rican and Dominican foods we haven't even heard of, to Belgian waffles, funnel cakes, cotton candy — you get the picture), using shuttle buses or meandering on foot.
I want a street-festival atmosphere every single day of Open Doors. I want every NY and Philly TV and radio station not just to mention the event in advance and from afar, but also to send camera/radio crews to report onscene, and the stations to sponsor their own events here in Newark. Gaetano says the radio station 92.3 has broadcast live from the 118 Lounge. Why not from the 33 show? Why not a KISS-FM concert on scene? WBLS? Whatever the NYC country station is? Soul and r&b in Washington Park, country in Military Park, cool jazz in Lincoln Park one year; switch it around the next.
Beaver Street setting for Submerged Art Gallery's block party.
As it is, I couldn't even get my friends Joe and Gaetano to go to any events. Joe didn't check his email for DAYS, and I didn't think to call, since I assumed (cue the Felix Unger video) that he checks his email every day. AND he is presently (again) on the outs with Gaetano — they're both Sicilian, and are very good at getting ticked off and holding grudges — so they wouldn't both join me at the same event. My older sister, from Southern California, came into NJ (via EWR) on OD Friday and headed to Monmouth County, where the 50th reunion she flew in for is to be held, but not until this Friday, and wouldn't come up to OD with the (various) friends she is staying with for the week. There are 5M people in North Jersey, and 20M more in NYC and Philly/New Hope, but we can't get 60,000 to attend a terrific arts festival over 4 days? What is wrong?
Maybe we need to do market research somehow, to find out if people just aren't hearing about it (which suggests one problem to address) or have heard about it but didn't want to attend (which might entail a dozen different reasons, each of which would have to be followed up).
A City department of tourism could do some of this research, but our genius mayor laid off the ONE guy who was working on tourism. What an idiot Booker is sometimes.